Penn State was missing several players due to injury on Saturday, in a 20-14 win over Army West Point.
Both featured running backs, Akeel Lynch and Saquon Barkley, who had previously combined for over 500 yards rushing and five touchdowns, walked out of the tunnel during warm ups in street clothes.
Marcus Allen, who head coach James Franklin had said earlier in the week would be expected back in action against Army, was also in street clothes and youngster Troy Apke started in his place. Franklin was asked after the game if the poor conditions affected whether or not some players returned this week.
“I think it depends on who you talk to,” he said. “If you talk to the kids? Yes. If you talk to the trainer? No. They weren’t ready to play this week. It wasn’t like we were holding anybody for anything. They weren’t able to go this week. Hopefully we’ll have an opportunity to get the kids back.”
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Linebacker Brandon Bell was also out, and was replaced by backup Von Walker, as was offensive lineman Andrew Nelson.
During the game, punter Chris Gulla got drilled by an Army player and looked unsteady heading to the sideline. He later walked into the locker room with a trainer and did not return.
Penn State also lost its starting center, Angelo Mangiro, in the second half. Mangiro was attended to by trainers after suffering what appeared to be a lower body injury, and he limped off the field and to the locker room under his own power. He did not return to the game, and was replaced by backup Wendy Laurent.
But in some good news for the Nittany Lions, senior linebacker Ben Kline saw action in the game, his first since 2013 (693 days, to be exact). Kline, who is in consideration to be a Rhodes Scholar and is also the president of Penn State’s Uplifting Athletes chapter, is one of the leaders on the team, and head coach James Franklin said Kline practiced with the scout team two weeks ago.
Scott stepping up
With Barkley and Lynch sidelined, redshirt freshman running back Nick Scott, along with Mark Allen and Johnathan Thomas, filled in capably.
Allen was the game’s starter in the backfield, but carries were distributed with Scott earning the most chances out of the group. Scott tallied 12 rushes for 54 yards, while Thomas had 28 yards on four carries and Allen recorded 17 yards on six touches.
Most importantly, Scott also punched in a touchdown — the first of his career.
“It felt amazing to score my first touchdown,” Scott said. “It’s something I’ve been dreaming about for a while. The coaching staff trusted me, and I trusted the system.”
The run was impressive, an 11-yard carry in which he broke a couple tackles on his way to pay dirt.
Scott said the offensive line did well to wash down the over-pursuing defense to open a running lane for him. Plus, Scott noted his tackle-breaking ability has progressed since high school.
“The three- and four-yard runs are good, but you’ve got to learn how to break tackles and be more effective,” Scott said. “That’s something that we work on. That’s something we stress in the running back room.”
Cabinda brings the hammer
Jason Cabinda was making calls in the middle of the Penn State defense.
His fellow linebackers were echoing those calls. Defensive end Carl Nassib and defensive tackle Anthony Zettel were “screaming their heads off.” The defense was ready to stop Army’s final drive late in the fourth quarter to seal Penn State’s 20-14 win Saturday.
Cabinda made the key play, sacking quarterback A.J. Schurr on fourth-and-five.
“That last drive, you got to stop ‘em,” Cabinda said. “That’s all you got to do is stop ‘em and the game, it’s over.”
Cabinda finished with a team-high 14 tackles and two sacks to lead the Penn State defense, which finished with 74. He also forced a fumble. He started alongside Troy Reeder and Walker. Reeder had four tackles, and Walker made three stops. Manny Bowen also saw time and recorded six tackles and recovered a fumble.
Cabinda praised the effort of his fellow linebackers.
“Pursuit was awesome,” Cabinda said. “That effort level was awesome today, so at the end of the day, you may have a guy bust or a guy miss a tackle, but the pursuit is there to clean it up. And I think we did a good job of that today.”
Cabinda led the way and impressed his teammates, too.
“He’s tough, he’s big, he’s fast,” Walker said. “He’s a linebacker for sure. He’s fun to watch. Tomorrow, when we go in to watch film, I’m sure there’s going to be some plays he makes and we’re gonna be like ‘Wow.’”
Sellout not quite as advertised
Penn State announced the crowd to be a sellout, and tweeted that out as such. That referred to ticket sales only, because there were many empty seats to be seen on a rainy day with a high temperature of 46 degrees and a chilly breeze.
The weather was more than likely the culprit of the sparse attendance. It is the third home game Penn State has played in such conditions.
World Cup players honored
At halftime, three former members of the Nittany Lion soccer team were honored. Carmelina Moscato played for the host nation Canada in last summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, while Alyssa Naeher and Ali Krieger helped the U.S. win the title.